The two Mukherjees of India House

May 23rd, 2008 - 10:11 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, May 23 (IANS) After the Sens of America, meet the two Mukherjees of London. The impeccable sense of timing behind the Ministry of External Affairs’ move to post a new Indian envoy to Britain gives the Indian diplomatic corps in London two men sharing a surname at the top. It’s a relatively rare occurrence in the world of closely observed diplomatic postings.

Although High Commissioner Shiv Shankar Mukherjee and his Deputy High Commissioner Asoke Mukerji spell their second names differently, they clearly emulate the example set in the US - giving an Indian twist to the ’special relationship’ between the US and Britain.

Both Ronen Sen, India’s Ambassador in Washington, and Nirupam Sen, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, were given a year’s extension by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this year.

The Sens continue what is viewed in New Delhi as a successful diplomatic partnership, despite controversies over attempts to strike an India-US deal to share nuclear technologies.

The partnership in London steers through rather calmer waters, with relations between India and Britain at their warmest and closest ever.

Mukherjee, who joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1971, assumed charge of India House - as the Indian High Commission is called - May 9.

Mukerji, who was Acting High Commissioner in the months leading up to Kamalesh Sharma stepping down as India’s envoy and taking over as Commonwealth Secretary-General Apr. 1, reverts to playing the Deputy.

Both have had their share of difficult postings before coming to the British capital - Shiv Shankar Mukherjee was India’s ambassador to Nepal just when the Himalayan kingdom underwent a series of political upheavals, including a protracted Maoist insurrection.

And Asoke Mukerji helped smooth India’s relations with Kazakhstan in the jittery aftermath of the Soviet Union’s breakup.

“That’s not all,” joked a senior diplomat at a reception thrown for Shiv Shankar Mukherjee at India House Thursday night.

“There’s another by the same name, who happens to sit in New Delhi - External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.”

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